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Hobby Hackers, Part II

Hobby Hackers, Part II

As more news agencies and businesses in the region turn to the internet, Saudi Arabia is spawning a generation of hackers and pirate programmers, Part II

February 26, 2009 8:49 by

Harsh virtual reality

And yet, the main drive for many young hackers is religious extremism. According to many experts, so-called information warfare is gaining a foothold in the Kingdom. The former senior advisor on IT and security to the Saudi Interior Ministry, Abdulrahman al-Shenaifi, was instrumental in setting up the Kingdom’s first cybercrime unit to tackle criminals online. He warns that online threats are just as serious as those in the real world.

“We have to coordinate across borders, because online is the new theater of war,” al-Shenaifi says. “A lot of people can see this. For those who believe that cybercrime is only happening in Europe or the US, they are deluding themselves. They should see reality as it is – once you connect, you are not alone, whether you tap in, in England, in America, in the Middle East, anywhere.”

The fear is that hacking may evolve beyond a “fun” hobby, that groups that work to shutdown anti-Islamic Web sites in order to prevent those views from appearing on the Web may turn on other targets. Sunni and Shi’a rival hackers slugged it out recently in an attempt to outdo one another.

There is also the mythical fear that hackers could infiltrate systems to shut down power grids, disrupt financial transactions and close down telephone systems. As yet, this has not happened, but al-Shenaifi believes we should be ready regardless. “You cannot assess security as ever being 100 percent,” he adds. “What security does mean is putting up barriers, just like a country having an army, an air force – just like that. Today’s world is different.”

First seen in Trends magazine.

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